Containing The Interval Of A Hundred And Seventy Years.
From The Death Of Alexander The Great To The Death Of Judas Maccabeus.
How Judas Overthrew The Forces Of Apollonius And Seron And Killed The Generals Of Their Armies Themselves; And How When, A Little While Afterwards Lysias And Gorgias Were Beaten He Went Up To Jerusalem And Purified The Temple.
1. WHEN Apollonius, the general of the Samaritan forces, heard this, he took his army, and made haste to go against Judas, who met him, and joined battle with him, and beat him, and slew many of his men, and among them Apollonius himself, their general, whose sword being that which he happened then to wear, he seized upon, and kept for himself; but he wounded more than he slew, and took a great deal of prey from the enemy's camp, and went his way. But when Seron, who was general of the army of Celesyria, heard that many had joined themselves to Judas, and that he had about him an army sufficient for fighting, and for making war, he determined to make an expedition against him, as thinking it became him to endeavor to punish those that transgressed the king's injunctions. He then got together an army, as large as he was able, and joined to it the runagate and wicked Jews, and came against Judas.
He came as far as Bethhoron, a village of Judea, and there pitched his camp; upon which Judas met him; and when he intended to give him battle, he saw that his soldiers were backward to fight, because their number was small, and because they wanted food, for they were fasting, he encouraged them, and said to them, that victory and conquest of enemies are not derived from the multitude in armies, but in the exercise of piety towards God; and that they had the plainest instances in their forefathers, who, by their righteousness, exerting themselves on behalf of their own laws, and their own children, had frequently conquered many ten thousands, - for innocence is the strongest army. By this speech he induced his men to condemn the multitude of the enemy, and to fall upon Seron. And upon joining battle with him, he beat the Syrians; and when their general fell among the rest, they all ran away with speed, as thinking that to be their best way of escaping. So he pursued them unto the plain, and slew about eight hundred of the enemy; but the rest escaped to the region which lay near to the sea.
2. When king Antiochus heard of these things, he was very angry at what had happened; so he got together all his own army, with many mercenaries, whom he had hired from the islands, and took them with him, and prepared to break into Judea about the beginning of the spring. But when, upon his mustering his soldiers, he perceived that his treasures were deficient, and there was a want of money in them, for all the taxes were not paid, by reason of the seditions there had been among the nations he having been so magnanimous and so liberal, that what he had was not sufficient for him, he therefore resolved first to go into Persia, and collect the taxes of that country. Hereupon he left one whose name was Lysias, who was in great repute with him governor of the kingdom, as far as the bounds of Egypt, and of the Lower Asia, and reaching from the river Euphrates, and committed to him a certain part of his forces, and of his elephants, and charged him to bring up his son Antiochus with all possible care, until he came back; and that he should conquer Judea, and take its inhabitants for slaves, and utterly destroy Jerusalem, and abolish the whole nation. And when king Antiochus had given these things in charge to Lysias, he went into Persia; and in the hundred and forty-seventh year he passed over Euphrates, and went to the superior provinces.
3. Upon this Lysias chose Ptolemy, the son of Dorymenes, and Nicanor, and Gorgias, very potent men among the king's friends, and delivered to them forty thousand foot soldiers, and seven thousand horsemen, and sent them against Judea, who came as far as the city Emmaus, and pitched their camp in the plain country. There came also to them auxiliaries out of Syria, and the country round about; as also many of the runagate Jews. And besides these came some merchants to buy those that should be carried captives, (having bonds with them to bind those that should be made prisoners,) with that silver and gold which they were to pay for their price.
And when Judas saw their camp, and how numerous their enemies were, he persuaded his own soldiers to be of good courage, and exhorted them to place their hopes of victory in God, and to make supplication to him, according to the custom of their country, clothed in sackcloth; and to show what was their usual habit of supplication in the greatest dangers, and thereby to prevail with God to grant you the victory over your enemies. So he set them in their ancient order of battle used by their forefathers, under their captains of thousands, and other officers, and dismissed such as were newly married, as well as those that had newly gained possessions, that they might not fight in a cowardly manner, out of an inordinate love of life, in order to enjoy those blessings. When he had thus disposed his soldiers, he encouraged them to fight by the following speech, which he made to them:
"O my fellow soldiers, no other time remains more opportune than the present for courage and contempt of dangers; for if you now fight manfully, you may recover your liberty, which, as it is a thing of itself agreeable to all men, so it proves to be to us much more desirable, by its affording us the liberty of worshipping God. Since therefore you are in such circumstances at present, you must either recover that liberty, and so regain a happy and blessed way of living, which is that according to our laws, and the customs of our country, or to submit to the most opprobrious sufferings; nor will any seed of your nation remain if you be beat in this battle. Fight therefore manfully; and suppose that you must die, though you do not fight; but believe, that besides such glorious rewards as those of the liberty of your country, of your laws, of your religion, you shall then obtain everlasting glory. Prepare yourselves, therefore, and put yourselves into such an agreeable posture, that you may be ready to fight with the enemy as soon as it is day tomorrow morning."
4. And this was the speech which Judas made to encourage them. But when the enemy sent Gorgias, with five thousand foot and one thousand horse, that he might fall upon Judas by night, and had for that purpose certain of the runagate Jews as guides, the son of Mattathias perceived it, and resolved to fall upon those enemies that were in their camp, now their forces were divided. When they had therefore supped in good time, and had left many fires in their camp, he marched all night to those enemies that were at Emmaus. So that when Gorgias found no enemy in their camp, but suspected that they were retired, and had hidden themselves among the mountains, he resolved to go and seek them wheresoever they were. But about break of day Judas appeared to those enemies that were at Emmaus, with only three thousand men, and those ill armed, by reason of their poverty; and when he saw the enemy very well and skillfully fortified in their camp, he encouraged the Jews, and told them that they ought to fight, though it were with their naked bodies, for that God had sometimes of old given such men strength, and that against such as were more in number, and were armed also, out of regard to their great courage.
So he commanded the trumpeters to sound for the battle; and by thus falling upon the enemies when they did not expect it, and thereby astonishing and disturbing their minds, he slew many of those that resisted him, and went on pursuing the rest as far as Gadara, and the plains of Idumea, and Ashdod, and Jamnia; and of these there fell about three thousand. Yet did Judas exhort his soldiers not to be too desirous of the spoils, for that still they must have a contest and battle with Gorgias, and the forces that were with him; but that when they had once overcome them, then they might securely plunder the camp, because they were the only enemies remaining, and they expected no others. And just as he was speaking to his soldiers, Gorgias's men looked down into that army which they left in their camp, and saw that it was overthrown, and the camp burnt; for the smoke that arose from it showed them, even when they were a great way off, what had happened. When therefore those that were with Gorgias understood that things were in this posture, and perceived that those that were with Judas were ready to fight them, they also were affrighted, and put to flight; but then Judas, as though he had already beaten Gorgias's soldiers without fighting, returned and seized on the spoils. He took a great quantity of gold, and silver, and purple, and blue, and then returned home with joy, and singing hymns to God for their good success; for this victory greatly contributed to the recovery of their liberty.
5. Hereupon Lysias was confounded at the defeat of the army which he had sent, and the next year he got together sixty thousand chosen men. He also took five thousand horsemen, and fell upon Judea; and he went up to the hill country of Bethsur, a village of Judea, and pitched his camp there, where Judas met him with ten thousand men; and when he saw the great number of his enemies, he prayed to God that he would assist him, and joined battle with the first of the enemy that appeared, and beat them, and slew about five thousand of them, and thereby became terrible to the rest of them. Nay, indeed, Lysias observing the great spirit of the Jews, how they were prepared to die rather than lose their liberty, and being afraid of their desperate way of fighting, as if it were real strength, he took the rest of the army back with him, and returned to Antioch, where he listed foreigners into the service, and prepared to fall upon Judea with a greater army.
6. When therefore the generals of Antiochus's armies had been beaten so often, Judas assembled the people together, and told them, that after these many victories which God had given them, they ought to go up to Jerusalem, and purify the temple, and offer the appointed sacrifices. But as soon as he, with the whole multitude, was come to Jerusalem, and found the temple deserted, and its gates burnt down, and plants growing in the temple of their own accord, on account of its desertion, he and those that were with him began to lament, and were quite confounded at the sight of the temple; so he chose out some of his soldiers, and gave them order to fight against those guards that were in the citadel, until he should have purified the temple. When therefore he had carefully purged it, and had brought in new vessels, the candlestick, the table [of shew-bread], and the altar [of incense], which were made of gold, he hung up the veils at the gates, and added doors to them.
He also took down the altar [of burnt-offering], and built a new one of stones that he gathered together, and not of such as were hewn with iron tools. So on the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, which the Macedonians call Apeliens, they lighted the lamps that were on the candlestick, and offered incense upon the altar [of incense], and laid the loaves upon the table [of shew-bread], and offered burnt-offerings upon the new altar [of burnt-offering]. Now it so fell out, that these things were done on the very same day on which their Divine worship had fallen off, and was reduced to a profane and common use, after three years' time; for so it was, that the temple was made desolate by Antiochus, and so continued for three years. This desolation happened to the temple in the hundred forty and fifth year, on the twenty-fifth day of the month Apeliens, and on the hundred fifty and third olympiad: but it was dedicated anew, on the same day, the twenty-fifth of the month Apeliens, on the hundred and forty-eighth year, and on the hundred and fifty-fourth olympiad. And this desolation came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel, which was given four hundred and eight years before; for he declared that the Macedonians would dissolve that worship [for some time].
7. Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival. Judas also rebuilt the walls round about the city, and reared towers of great height against the incursions of enemies, and set guards therein. He also fortified the city Bethsura, that it might serve as a citadel against any distresses that might come from our enemies.